BOB GARFIELD: And here are two more updates from these shores. In March, we told you about a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and several marijuana reform groups against the government and the Washington, DC Metro System. The ACLU claimed that part of the federal 2004 spending bill violated the First Amendment, because it cut off funding from public transit authorities that accepted advertising criticizing the government's "War on Drugs." Complying with the new law, the D.C. Metro System refused to run a series of ads that claimed there were serious negative consequences to the government's fight against marijuana use. Well, on Wednesday, a U.S. District Court judge confirmed the ACLU position, striking down the so-called "Istook Amendment," named after the Republican Congressman who championed it. Judge Paul L. Friedman's decision calls the government's attempt to censor the transit ads, quote, "illegitimate and constitutionally impermissible." He also issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the law's enforcement.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And a recent tragedy recalled an interview we did in August of 2002, when Sheriff Fred Abdalla of Jefferson County, Ohio detained a mother at a carnival because her three children seemed to be suffering from severe sunburn and other medical problems. The "Sunburn Sheriff," as he was dubbed, became something of a media punch line. News organizations all over the world covered the story, or at least a partial version of it, portraying the sheriff's action as a gross over-reaction to the normal wear and tear of childhood. But when we spoke to Sheriff Abdalla, he explained that he felt more than justified in taking action against this mother, despite the heckling from the media:
SHERIFF FRED ABDALLA: But you know what, Brooke? I can sleep good at night, and I can get up in the morning and look in the mirror real well, and don't have a problem. I wouldn't have been able to go to bed at night if I hadn't done anything, and one of these children would have been killed or, or died rather. I would, I, I, I just couldn't live with myself.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: But last month, one of the children in the sunburn case -- a 2 year old named Timothy --died. His parents are being charged with reckless homicide and child endangerment. The tragedy of this toddler's death suggests that Sheriff Abdalla wasn't over-reacting when he decided to pursue charges against the mother, no matter what the media said about it. [MUSIC]